Everybody involved with Young in Prison breathes a positive approach: truly believing that every child and young person deserves a second chance. This entrenched belief in young people make them feel that they are treated as human beings. They are experiencing – maybe for the very first time – that somebody truly believes in them as a person. Through the positive message we display in our work, the youngsters slowly but surely start to look at themselves as a person deserving of a future, somebody who should be given the opportunity to return to society, and become a valuable addition to their community. In order to achieve this goal with our programmes, it is important to focus on the skills and developmental possibilities of young people. We believe in their natural capacity to change their behaviour and grow, and that all the young people we work with have their own strengths. These strengths will flourish even more when they are accompanied by positive sources of support within families, schools and communities. As the youth we work with often live in less than positive social environments, we at YIP strive to create a positive environment for them, which will build healthy developmental pathways. This can lead to youth becoming valuable members of their family, their community and civil society. Our programmes focus on strengthening relationships and skills, embedding youth in positive networks of social supportive adults and help them develop a more positive view of their future by providing education, internships, jobs, entrepreneurial and volunteer opportunities.

Every participant is equally involved in the YIP programme. Every participant gets the opportunity to participate actively. They are given responsibilities within the workshops: this gives them the feeling that they are special. The level of participation will differ in practice. Not all the children will participate equally enthusiastically, motivated or Actively. It is the task of the facilitators to engage all participants and identify their different levels of participation. By doing this, the facilitator can restructure the roles and responsibilities that the children have within the YIP programme. When participants perform well by showing positive behaviour, they should be used as role models for the other children, by, for example, giving them special tasks. The creative and physical activities during the workshops both target the individual and the group. It is important to ensure that the facilitator is aware of the group dynamics and makes it an interactive process to accommodate the group, but also keeps each individual engaged. The YIP programme is a collective process: we work together towards a final product in which every individual can see their own efforts. Joint performances at the end of a cycle of workshops make them take pride in their work and also contribute to team building. Plus, by working together on a final product with each having his or her own responsibility adds to the social responsibility experienced by the participants. If their part is not taken seriously, this will have a negative effect on the whole programme.

The use of games and exercises to help participants maintain their focus is crucial for their attention span. Most participants’ attention spans tend to be very short due to the limitations imposed by such things as gangster culture and constant negativity within the prison walls. Prison programme spaces are not very quiet spaces and can be very destructive to anyone’s attention span. Therefore, using fun games that improve people’s concentration is very important.

  • Art is transformative. Creativity liberates.

    Khethiwe Cele
    Khethiwe Cele Director of Young in Prison South Africa
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